Sunday, April 18, 2010

Paano Ko Sasabihin - On Deceptions and Taking the Romantic Train

Erich Gonzales cuts a charming lead in Richard Soriano Legaspi’s “Paano Ko Sasabihin” (How Can I Tell You). She plays Erhyl, a script writer who works hard to buy her deaf brother Wilhem (Johann Alcantara) his hearing aid. But what fuels excitement to Erhyl’s otherwise lackluster life is her growing fascination with a strapping fellow LRT commuter Mike (Enchong Dee). After several close encounters with the latter, Erhyl finally gets his attention. What’s more, he even painstakingly returns a shoe which she clumsily left during a mad rush out of the train. How anyone could leave a strapped high heeled shoe in a train is still a mystery to me. But to get on with the story, let’s consider that such stupidity actually happens. Excuse me, Cinderella.

Having seen Mike use the sign language, Erhyl pretends that she is deaf as well. So they start going out on dates. What a lovely and perfect pair. Truth is, Mike – who teaches at a school for “special” kids – is not deaf! And it’s just a matter of time before they both find out about their own deceptions, right?

The movie’s tension rests on this rather preposterous predicament. Hearing adults both pretending to be deaf!


The first half of the movie showcases an endearing, if a tad too silly, boy-meets-girl scenario, and just when we were ready to be swept off our feet, the movie swerves into a ridiculous turn of events! When Erhyl decides to see Mike and confess, he just stood there dumbfounded looking like an idiot. It was golden opportunity to confess and come clean for the same folly. Instead, he lets her run to the nearest LRT station for the awkwardly played out scene where Mike uses the train’s speaker system to make a message for Erhyl – and for hundreds of passengers to hear, “Magkita tayo sa Central Station. Ako ang lalaking …” and so on! Of course, this throws Erhyl into a loop. Who is this idiot who wouldn’t even say his name? And why would Erhyl even think that this absurd message was meant for her? After all, it was a generalized message that could have been meant for someone else.

So she waits at the Central Station. Will he be there? Of course! She finds Mike at the other side of the platform. They do a ridiculous patintero. A train arrives to impede her vision of the hunky teacher. When the train pulls out of the station, he’s gone! She turns around broken hearted, but when she looks up, Mike is beside her! And their lips lock to a swelling romantic song! Aww!

How can something so promising end into a trite and disappointing finish? The story writer suddenly loses steam, and the general plot that promisingly fueled the whole narrative suddenly seemed silly!

There are awkward moments riddling this movie. When Mike admits his own part of the whole double whammy-deception, Erhyl accuses him: “How can I trust you after what you’ve done?” Girl, go get a mirror and shout it out on your impervious skull. It’s the thief accusing the other thief of, err, thievery! Hilarious really!

Fortunately, Erich and Enchong enjoy a palpable chemistry that’s easy to love. In fact, I like Erich. Even in her mediocre telenovelas, she has always exuded sensitivity and sincerity. She never resorts to woe-is-me portrayals (paging the eternally sappy Kim Chiu) that reek with slap-happy scenes and garalgal-cum-boses-kiki cries. Erich is one of the few young actresses of her generation who has learned restraint early in her career. It must have come from years of playing support and second – even third - fiddle. Patience does that to intuitive actors. Unfortunately, this particular film just isn’t too smart. It was on its way to becoming a good movie when it suddenly veered to the path of wild imaginings and melodramatic machination! You don’t have the guts to admit your shortcomings to a girl, but you have enough balls to address a public address system? That just doesn’t make sense! Something is disjointed, not to mention – on the part of the storyteller – Machiavellian. Narrative expediency is placed above logic, and deceit is literally and figuratively carried out to move the story. Just when the complexities have reached their quota, everything finds a fast resolution! How simple. If only life were that simple.

It can’t be helped to place “Paano Ko Sasabihin” beside Cinemalaya’s similarly themed “Dinig Sana Kita” which absolutely bowled us over! Just a few years ago, an online-writer once put a veteran entertainment journalist to task for having Cinemalaya as his personal cause to support, instead of Cinema One. It was actually funny for why would anyone impose his own causes on someone else’s. Makialam ba. In one of this online-writer’s annual year-end rants, he arrogantly assailed the elder journalist for this cause. In the same list of rants (where he wished Ketchup Eusebio more cinematic exposure! Eww! Eusebio to my mind is a modern-day Smokey Manaloto! There is nothing brilliant about him!), he comparatively weighed the 2 film festivals, obviously favoring Cinema One!

But comparing “Paano Ko Sasabihin” to “Dinig Sana Kita” is like comparing Picasso as a visual artist to a Carlo Caparas! While Caparas gloats on the income-generating power of his “art”, Picasso laid on his death bed proclaiming, “Drink to my health, you know I can’t drink anymore”. Huh? Yes, honey, I’m saying there’s no point of comparison. LOL

Anyone who favors “Cinema One” over “Cinemalaya” is in obvious need of re-tuning his cinematic taste. Simply put, when the works of Cinemalaya are placed beside the works of Cinema One, the latter comes up with middling, unfocused, overly ambitious but ultimately underwhelming works! Paging "Manghuhula". Yet year in and out, you hear of Indie film makers violently resisting and shaking off the "guidance" that Cinemalaya organizers insist. What an arrogant lot!

Sure, there are breakaway films like “Yanggaw”, “Tambolista”, “Confessional” - but most of their (Cinema One) outputs are mediocre! I remembered back in 2006 when a movie called “Pandanggo” premiered at the Galleria. Unfortunately, I was there! It was a “trilogy” of sorts – a film that’s lost in its own ambition and confusion, and I was like, “WTF”! That’s “Cinema One” for you! To be honest, Cinemalaya occasionally comes up with seemingly unfinished works like “In The Red Corner” (2006), but these are mere exceptions to the rule. In fact, “In the Red…” feels like a Truffaut compared to the Godardesque-dizzy-weezy “Pandanggo” which came out the same year!

Cinemalaya films are better conceptualized, while “Cinema One” films are more experimental. Sad thing is, they miss more than they hit! They lose their way through the very basic requisite of telling a story! They mine an interesting idea then lose their way expounding it, thus resulting into a messy piece of cinema!

I am actually glad that less and less digital works are getting shown in commercial theaters these days. Dapat lang! Visuals pa nga lang, di na nila naayos. Cinema is after all a visual medium! This is a basic precept that majority of the digital film makers keep forgetting. If you can’t lend a legible and acceptable “visual” to your movie, get into radio! Mag radio drama ka na lang! LOL. Don’t be too ambitious to be called a film maker when your films look like pirated copies when shown at the cinema. Why movie goers should watch fuzzy visuals with shoddy sound and pay P170 for borderline cinema over “real movies” is beyond me.

I am sure someone would remind me that the director’s works have been shown in Pyongyang, Naoussa, Tallinn and Budapest. So iffing what? Mel Chionglo’s “Midnight Dancers” was shown at the Toronto Filmfest and - ohmygosh, 2010's worst film "Fidel" was invited at the Berlin! - it would become Chionglo's worst work too! That “Paano Ko Sasabihin” won the Audience Choice Award at the Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival is not a testament to the film’s technical excellence, but to the obvious charm of its leads. Nothing more!


Anonymous said...

handumanan was one of the worst movie shown in last years cinemalaya. everything was terrible, script, directing, editing and acting!!!! so not every film in cinemalaya is good. may pa netpac netpac pa yun...binigyan ng subsidy para sa isang chakang pelikula?!

Cathy said...

OMG! You are so right. I'm glad you reminded me of "Handumanan" which I saw in Galleria (was it last year). It was AWFUL! Akihiro Sato was a somnambulist's Mickey Mouse (read: a cartoon!) while Jason Abalos was jejomonic. Too bad because I believe he's one of our better, albeit underrated actors around! Chin chin Gutierrez was sappy! Isn't "Bayaw" a netpac entry as well? Goes to show what a netpac contender is worth these days!

I respect opinions with vestiges of explanation. And I couldn't agree with you more that Seymour Barros Sanchez's entry was HORRENDOUS! Film professor pa yun ha? LOL

On point of comparison between Cinemalaya & CinemaOne, I still stand by my opinion that the former dominates in terms of excellence. Art appreciation after all is largely subjective so your opinion rests on your taste.

Lastly, I do hope you've mentioned your name, even a pseudonym would do. This would actually render credibility to your opinion, while anonymity renders it futile. But yeah, point well taken.

Anonymous said...

to anonymous,
there is a factual error - netpac entries are not given grants/subsidies by cinemalaya but only those under the new breed category. yun lang. and yeah, it was an ugly film.

Cathy Pena said...

Posting this "anonymous" comment as it may shed (a bit of) light on the nature of "netpac" and subsidies, but this otherwise is almost pointless.

Anonimity renders an opinion almost futile.

And Seymour Barros-Sanchez's "Handumanan" is horrendous; a more than valid candidate for one of the decade's worst films!